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Tufts Divest activists intensify efforts by posing as prospective students

Posted by Your Town  April 2, 2013 06:12 PM

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Student activists at Tufts University intensified their efforts to persuade the university to divest its endowment’s holdings in oil and gas stocks, by posing as prospective students at an information session and on guided tours.

Four Tufts students attended an information session for prospective students on Thursday, and asked about Tufts’ investments in the fossil fuel industry. In a message posted on their website, the students said that “Tufts Divest would like to clarify that the goal of this action was not to deter students from coming to Tufts. We regret that the action quickly devolved into such a chaotic and uncontrollable scene and that it upset Tufts students.”

Dan Jubelirer, a member of Tufts Divest who went to the information session, said that in the past two weeks, several activists have posed as prospective students on tours, and pressed the guides about the university’s investments.

Jubelirer, 20, said that members of Tufts Divest have been working directly with the administration, but the group feels that the process has not been moving fast enough. He said that the group does not want to be using these strategies, but they feel it is their only option.

“We do not have the desire to be radical for radical’s sake,” he said. “And we would much rather win divestment by meeting with the board.”

Kim Thurler, a spokeswoman for the university, said in an e-mailed statement that the administration has been willing to talk with students about how the university can better deal with climate change. She wrote that Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell is exploring the idea of forming a group that would consist of administration, faculty, students, and trustees that would address these issues.

"Tufts has been happy to engage with students on the broad question how the university can impact the problem of climate change and whether there is a role for our investment policies in this process," Thurler wrote. "Senior administrators as well as the Trustees' Administration and Finance Committee and Investment Committee have welcomed the opportunity to hear from students on this subject in forums that, unlike the admissions information sessions, lend themselves to thoughtful discussion of the subject."

She added that "Tufts is serious about looking at new ways to have a positive impact on the environment. If there is a way to increase environmentally friendly investments while maintaining our fundamental investment philosophy and approach, we would certainly consider it."

“Senior administrators as well as the [Office of the] Trustees’ Administration and Finance Committee and Investment Committee have welcomed the opportunity to hear from students on this subject in forums that lend themselves to thoughtful discussion,” Thurler told the Daily.

Student activists at a number of campuses around the United States, including Boston University, MIT, and Harvard have started similar initiatives. Approximately 40 to 50 students are members of Tufts Divest.

Anna Lello-Smith, who was one of the four students who attended the information session, said that she feels that their message was misinterpreted by those at the meeting.

“I think it was not a good tactic to use, especially at this time,” Lello-Smith, 19, said. “We’re not at all intending to deter students from coming to Tufts.”

Jubelirer, who is a peace and justice studies major, also said that the administration has the right “to review their investments and make thoughtful decisions.”

“We’re not saying be rash and do it tomorrow,” he said. “We are saying take this seriously, because this is our future.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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